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Vipassana - Returning home to yourself.


meditation mudra hands

Honouring your evolution is a beautiful journey.


It's already been over a month since coming back from Vipassana and Im completely in the swing of life and feeling so so grateful! After being away for 10 (12 days) with noble silence, no eye contact, no books, no music, no exercise, no technology (they basically take everything that you know as normal away from you), 4am starts and meditation sittings for up to 12 hours a day the deep exploration into Vipassana meditation has changed me forever.


10 days seems like a very long time for us to ponder leaving our normal lives, our loved ones, our roles, responsibilities, jobs but the potency of taking serious time to be completely alone with your own mind is beyond words. I suppose its something we don't consider or even think about doing because, LIFE! I went through so many emotions, physical sensations, anxiety, fear, I felt claustrophobic, suffocated walking into the first sitting on the first evening. My social anxiety walking in to just register and commit to being there threw me off, I don't cope well in huge large gatherings but knew this was a part of something I needed to work through. Over the period of time you are there you are either in your room (I asked to be on my own) or you are in the main hall, (the main hall is filled with all participants) its filled with people but you cannot talk to anyone or look them in the eye, its a practice that allows you to delve into the depths of who you are, in complete isolation. The discipline is so strict because hey, we are constantly distracting ourselves...ALL THE TIME!


We move through life constantly absorbing information, calculating, reacting, learning, failing, craving, pushing away, every single minute our minds are very often elsewhere instead of the present moment. Within the teaching of Vipassana we are allowing ourselves to tune the mind into the present moment, every single breath, every single sensation within the body, we are stripping life away to connect back to the very core of nature, human life and natural law. Everything is a state of change and when we learn to watch it, we do not react. The technique is absolutely amazing and I feel incredibly grateful I worked hard, didn't sway or distract myself and fell deep into the meditation that once you commit to the practice its almost as if nothing else exists. You are within yourself.


By the second day I was watching my mind talk me out of staying, all sorts of scenarios of home appeared, what if Gus was ill, so many "what if's" became so loud within my mind that I noticed how easy it is for us to talk ourselves out of anything when we don't feel safe or in control. I have always had a hard time with the unpredictability of 'people' following a few interesting experiences in life so was creating scenarios there too, what if they are ill, what if they have a melt down, what if they are aggressive... This is a subconscious reaction within me from experiences I've had within my life, so it was interesting to notice my mind repeating an old cycle and scenario and setting me up to react in the same way (It's also the reason why I requested my own room and not to share with another person). I've had uneasy feelings about public toilets, shower rooms, being ill away from home, terrified of people cooking my food for me, crowded places, overstimulating places/noise so this experience was going to be very interesting and before attending none of the things mentioned above had crossed my mind. Its only when you are away from 'normal life' and with your own mind you can actually begin to observe the facets and layers that have moulded you for a long time.


Day 3 came around and after witnessing people not arrive in their places in the main hall, people physically ill (throwing up), grey faced and in pain, knowing that they had left, there was something in me acknowledging the physical and mental strength that this practice was highlighting. I knew from teaching this concept for years that we must explore discomfort and pain to realise our potential, now it was my time to experience this and as soon as I grasped and surrendered into the practice I was committed. I could feel myself fighting it but gave myself a talking too, reminding myself I made the decision to be there, to learn to grow, to get to know myself better and after that reminder I sunk into the practice and the meditation sittings were a welcome pause of life. Over the 3 days the mind will wander, I was struck by how loud things where despite no one talking to each other at all. You do not break silence over the 10 days, I noticed people swallowing, coughing, one person continuously belching (which triggered me from day 1), it was also interesting to notice that a cold was being passed around the group. More interesting I didn't get it. By the end of day 3 I had no thoughts, I was in my body and with my breath, that's all. I couldn't quite believe it but noticed I couldn't move my mind anywhere else. I could feel my body pulsating with my heart beat, I could feel my breath, hear it, felt every single sensation, it was so surreal and nothing like I had ever felt before in my life, home meditation or yoga practice.


Goenka quote

Day 4 was where the actual technique passed down from Gautama the Buddha is taught, I guess the 3 days at the beginning separates the varying capacities of the mind, and our ability to sit on the floor for up to 12 hours a day. 3 days to distinguish the mental & physical strength of a person. The technique for me personally was amazing, fascinating and other worldly. From being taught to notice the breath for the first three days, you then learn to sit and watch the physical sensations INSIDE the body, like an itch, tickle, ache, warmth, pain, it could be absolutely anything, but just as you might imagine ants crawling all over you, you are taught not to react. One of the main things that also adds to the practice is from day 4 you are NOT allowed to move, so within your seated posture, you can not adjust any part of the body, you cannot open your eyes, move your hands, feet or adjust. Adhitthana (in Pali language) = Strong determination. This was very interesting, but I found myself not moving anyway, even from the first day I didnt really move and giggled to myself when I realised that I could have moved before the 4 day started! It was almost as if my body wasn't even there but I was just made up of moving sensations and particles. When we could speak at the end of the 10 days it was interesting to hear other peoples experiences, I described the sensations I felt as a tiny worm (about 5mm) crawling under my skin, but I was following it as it moved, and my attention didn't go anywhere else. You learn to scan the whole body in this way, just settling on a body part and observing sensations within that area, you don't react, you don't have a craving for nice sensations or an aversion to things that are uncomfortable.


Day 5-7

These days are not necessarily a blur, but I was deep within the practice, within the routine, and completely immersed. After day 4 it becomes another realm of connection to where you are and how present you could become. I would walk at 6am and do my oil pulling through the woodland and sit admiring the birds. The sun rose and flickered through the leaves, the dew on the grass, the birds, the bunnies, it was so incredibly peaceful. Everything was so still but also so vibrantly alive, this practice enables you to purify the body and mind back to its natural state. Where we vibrate inline with nature and have no demands or distractions pulling us away from ourselves. The gong would ring to indicate that it was meditation time, breakfast at 6.30am and lunch at 11.30am. You do not eat another meal after that time, if you were a new student you could have two pieces of fruit at 5pm! I remember before I attended the concept of eating two meals a day, both before midday was the only thing that made me go 'Uh oh, I don't think I can do this!'. Despite only eating two meals a day I didn't crave food, wasn't hungry and the meals that they did cook were probably by far the best food I've eaten, wholesome food with all the right things to support your journey while you were there. From day one I cut out all caffeine, sugar, cake & bread, I didn't miss any of it!


Day 7

When you come to the end of the each day after meditating in the main hall there is discourse each evening on a projector, the recording is of Goenka from 1991 (I think!). He talks about many things, makes you laugh (internally of course! ha!), tells stories, explains the techniques and mentioned a few times that when you deepen the practice things bubble to the surface. It made sense to me when he first said it, as I'm familiar with this when teaching my students, that we are physically releasing tension and pain and enabling ourselves to create more space and emotional lightness. What was so fascinating about this practice is that from sitting still for hours & hours I experienced no pain, I didn't need to get up and stretch my legs, get pins & needles, feel uncomfortable or stiff. I had energy, I felt open, fluid and connected. What did appear though was trauma, discomfort, memories that I of course knew were a part of me and my life but they 'bubbled' to the surface and threw me off practice. It came to the surface and I re-lived many things, in depth, almost dream like. Even though these memories were not good ones, I did not react. Interesting to feel as some of these things came up within my 'breakdown' last November-December 2022 when I had to take time off work, to be with myself and work through (and journal) things in order to make sense and move forwards. When these things appear and sometimes rear their ugly head we react, we break, we cant cope, this technique allows you the time to watch it, accept it and let it move through and out out of you.


Day 8

I felt at home, didn't miss anything of my normal life and could have stayed for longer, I was actually going to miss the routine, the depth of the practice. I found myself not being able to come out of the meditation when the chanting appeared after the hour long session, so I stayed and continued, very often for another hour & a half. It just turned into a natural practice where I was sinking into it and re emerged when my body and mind felt ready. I wasn't distracted, preoccupied, uncomfortable, time just didn't exist anymore. This was interesting to notice after the first few days of being there, where after 30-40 minutes you can hear people shuffling about because they had came out of their practice, even if you come out you are encouraged not to open your eyes and to still sit within the room. Over time your meditation may start to extend longer because you're giving yourself chance to feel it and move through it, instead of going, 'times up, Im done!'.


Day 9-10

As the course comes to an end, the noble silence has to end at some point, I wasn't ready for it and was so happy being completely quiet for that period of time! I know that many people have said they would struggle being quiet for a few days but trust me, that's the easiest part! Upon the morning of when we could talk again we did our morning practice as normal, and then at the end of it the assistant teacher (Who said a handful of sentences throughout the whole course) said noble silence has ended. No one made a noise, until a few minutes after I heard a few of the ladies to the right hand side of me laughing, from that moment most of the hall (from what I could feel) left. I was still sat, eyes closed, hadn't moved and felt a wave of heat and anxiety. As soon as everyone was outside, voices, laughter overwhelmed the space. Everything was SO LOUD. So loud that I sat in the main hall (with one other lady) for another half hour, I wasn't ready to end my practice. That being said after I took my time to leave the hall I went and sat on the grass with three lovely ladies, I approached and pointed to my closed mouth smiling, almost not knowing how to make a noise! It was nice to talk about many things, it was also nice to just sit in silence together feeling the sunshine on our faces and collectively appreciating our experience there. We all worked through so many things and felt connected in a new way, human to human, I guess we can all recognise how messy and busy life can get. It was amazing to feel free, light and when you have the freedom to talk again, you want to talk with truth, love, compassion and kindness, you want your words to be pure and loving. It really does make you appreciate everything that you have and you will take everything that you have learnt with you through the rest of your life.


On the last day (Day 12) it's a 4am start, we do one last meditation practice as a group and then we have our mindful tasks of cleaning our room and going on our way. It's a beautiful gesture to know that having stayed there for 12 days that you were in service to yourself and others, that you were living like a monk and everything was provided for you for free. That in turn you do the same, you live to serve others without wanting anything in return. You are open, peaceful, pure and float through life.


My return to the ‘real world’ couldn’t have been better. After leaving Dhamma Dipa early Sunday morning I had the pleasure of sharing a sound bath for @thesigningyogi , a practice where I guided a gorgeous group of deaf yogis into imagination and slumber. It was such a beautiful experience to feel, learn and connect in new perspectives and human ways. I was worried about using the bowls and vibrations after been away for so long, without any sounds or interactions, but it was peaceful and incredibly calming.



 


What have I learnt? I’ve learnt the power, strength and resilience of the mind is beyond contemplation, sitting still for over 10 hours a day can be a humbling experience, there is nothing else that exists when you’re so deep within your body, a sense of self. The practice allows us to find clarity, “As it is”, that we become so connected to the law of nature, the sensations within the body in that moment that you’re completely out of the busy mind and thoughts. By day 3 I didn’t think about anything, I sat with the birds, admired flowers and sank deep into my meditation where any sounds around me disappeared. My body had no pain, no aches, so much energy, there is a spaciousness and lightness within everything. Like a weight I didn’t know I was carrying had slipped off my shoulders.


I remember saying to myself on the 2nd day, if I can do this is can do anything. It was this day my mind was telling me to leave, so many emotions come up, memories, trauma, discomfort, self doubt, anxiety (I had loads) and you literally watch the mind bounce around in all directions, you then also notice that it’s controlling you. As soon as you surrender into the technique, the mind has no control! You have to try, you have to move beyond your comfort zone because that's where we learn everything about ourselves.


I've learnt that in order for us to become more connected to ourselves we have to step out of what we know and love that is familiar, be it a Vipassana course, walking a mountain, bungy jumping, swimming in the ocean, a task that you mark is impossible but have a curiosity to do, do it. We don't realise (or maybe we do) that we are very often going around in circles, life is cyclical, we have habits (not all good ones) and we may find ourselves where we are on a conveyor belt, not growing emotionally or physically, we aren't challenged, we aren't striving to get anywhere and we aren't inspired. Taking yourself out of your normal routine, ie a holiday is a good example, you can plug back into yourself, how your feeling, what you want in life, take care of your body and make decisions that help you to move forwards towards a life where you thrive, are wide awake and connected.


I plan to attend Vipassana every year, it was something I know that I will always cherish and get a lot from for my own personal development. If you’re looking for your own spiritual insight this is something I would encourage everyone to try, you will never be the same again.


Below is the website for the courses and all the details if you plan to attend, I cant wait to get back this year!!

All my love,

V x





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